In this first part of “Training Intensity Zones Explained”, I’ll talk about Zone 1, which is the easiest of the zones. I’ll talk about what it equates to and why we use it in the training plan.
So, let’s go. Zone 1 is the first zone in the 6-7 zone scale, depending on whether you’re using heart rate zones or power-based training zones, or those by Friel, Coggan or other coaches.
It’s the easiest and lowest intensity zone in the scale, and is executed by the athlete at any intensity below approximately 73-75% of maximum heart rate and any intensity lower than approximately 60% of FTP or Functional Threshold Power.
You can check out this post on how to calculate your Functional Threshold Power here, so that you’ll be able to accurately plot what intensity Zone 1 translates to for you.
There are a few purposes to training in Zone 1:
The first is that of active recovery, where the athlete rides or cross trains in zone 1 in order to promote recovery from previously stressful workouts.
At this intensity, the athlete is typically not trying to stress the body in order to produce an adaptive response, but instead stimulating the flow of fresh, oxygenated blood to the muscles and around the body, in order to flush out any waste products such as lactic acid that might be lingering in the muscles from higher intensity workouts.
RECOVERY BETWEEN INTERVALS
The second purpose of zone 1 training is again for recovery, but this time applied to recovery between work intervals within a workout. Interval training stresses the body by exercising in an alternating pattern of high intensity and low intensity, i.e. stress followed by recovery. Performing the rest intervals at zone 1 allows the athlete to recover effectively from the interval effort, in order to perform another work interval at the required intensity.
It allows the athlete to do so whilst facilitating maintained movement and pedalling, which has been shown unequivocally to promote superior recovery and subsequently higher stress tolerance than non-active recovery, where an athlete would come to a stop and rest statically.
Even though zone 1 is very low in the intensity scale, the upper levels of the zone are still sufficient to produce adaptive responses to base aspects of fitness.
These include improving aerobic efficiency through adaptions such as increased mitochondrial density.
This does however require you to spend a considerable amount of time training, as these changes occur as a function of time rather than intensity.
We’re probably talking upwards of 3 hours for most people, and over 4 in more experienced riders.
It can be successfully used in conjunction with zone 2 training to build fitness through long duration training workouts too.
Depending on the phase of training that you’re in, actual training time in zone 1 should amount to around 10% of your weekly total, which provides a great stress to recovery ratio.
In the next part, we’ll move up the scale to Zones 2 and 3.
If you have any questions about Zone 1 or anything related to training, leave a comment below!